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ADAM (EVIL) BARNICK'S TOP 10 SCARIEST TELEVISION MOMENTS!

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We all have our fluctuating lists of top horror films.. but what about television? Many of us were weaned on seeing horror on tv when we were too young to get to the theaters or convince our families that we could handle the scary stuff in a big, dark room.. but lately I’ve thought about television’s ability to give us the same chills. So I decided to look back and find what, to me, were the scariest things I’ve experienced on television - in media made specifically for television, not movies I simply discovered at home. Looking back, let’s see if any of you have these in common. A few of these don’t hold up but never left my scarred brain. Some still frighten me to no end. Enjoy.

Adam (Evil) Barnick’s Top Ten Scariest Television Moments

10) Salem's Lot: The Boy at the window

This was one my parents used to speak of which I got to witness in the mid-80's, when most of these stories were screened and freaked me to no end.

While Barlow's Nosferatu-esque appearance is effective as was the rest of the tale, it was the vampiric boy at the window, ceaselessly grinning (an unusual yet potent fear of mine, strange/uncanny grins), scratching at the window to be let in. Doesn't the other kid think this is remotely strange? I like how he’s borderline pleased to see him, not thinking the floating is remotely out of order. Of all the items I will mention on this list, this is the one I hear the most referenced by other horror fans who saw it growing up.



9) The X-Files: Humbug

One of the first intentionally comedic episodes of the paranormal series was one of the ones that turned me inside out back in the day. Mulder and Scully investigate the town of Gibsonton, Florida where members of a traveling circus sideshow are dying under mysterious circumstances. A Basket Case-esque revelation reveals the killer is the underdeveloped twin of one of the lead 'freaks', with the ability to leave its host body for periods of time. For such a darkly comic episode, the rare flashes of "Leonard" streaking through the frame or attacking potential new hosts revealed a truly unsettling design. Some good suspense in this episode, but primarily the twisted design of the twin coupled with his sudden attacks that got me.


8) Tales from the Darkside: 'Inside The Closet'

While even as a kid I found the show enjoyably cheesy, this episode was the one that floored lil' Barnick. A college student moves into an older man's upstairs spare room on campus, but warned not to use the small boxlike closet in the corner. Naturally curiosity gets the better of her as she notices shoes missing, items scattered..and it's revealed early on that SOMETHING makes the little closet its home..and it doesn't like the new guest.

The episode’s two creepiest moments..The young woman investigates a noise at night and finds nothing; as she lifts her heels off the floor to settle into slumber, a bleach-white emaciated clawed hand reaches for her ankle and misses. As she sleeps, a small shaft of moonlight illuminates SOMETHING under there, waiting. Every child’s fear that made them hop quickly into bed made manifest.

That's already enough to give any kid phobias; but it was the reveal/assault to follow that really messed with ten-year old yours truly. As with most of these, the FX are dated but admirable given the time. The thing in the closet, "Lizzie", is still a truly disturbing design, and its horrible crackle-noises still get me. But THE moment, which I remember being far more effective as a kid but is still pretty tough, was when Lizzie jumps on the heroine's back, and yanks her to the floor, breaking her neck before she even collapses. Brrr.



7) Trilogy of Terror

Need I say more? This was a late bloomer for me (I didn't see it on television until 1990) and yet while the idea seems ludicrous, and probably looks so if you're raised on modern FX, there's something about the Zuni fetish doll that seems to freak out anyone who experienced it at the right time in their lives. Basically the Tasmanian devil on espresso, the relentless doll endlessly screaming, chasing and slashing Karen Black was already unsettling when it was inanimate (that face!) and is even crazier when set free of its protective chain. And to top it off, we have that chair-gripping ending image where even though Ms. Black defeated the doll's body, she perished fighting its spirit.


6) V: The Final Battle: The Birthing Scene

I still consider this a well-made series and have enjoyed revisiting it on occasion over the years; as a wee lad it was a stirring sci fi monster story, and as you grow you realize just what the story (at least the original miniseries) symbolizes. Actually I'm not sure how I missed the symbolism even as a kid, it's not even remotely subtle..

This scene may have been the thing that wore down over time in terms of fear, but truly chilled lil' Barnick to the bone when he was too young to be seeing it. Robin Maxwell (Blair Tefkin) is shocked to learn her pregnancy from a Visitor may be far from human..and even more shocking are the green blemishes on her neck counting down her cycle and the fact that it's keeping her emotions and impulses in check, literally stopping her from killing herself.

Already a dread-driven premise, this scene at the time (I still feel, with the exception of the FX, it holds up) was the one that kept me WIDE awake..I'm pretty sure I asked to sleep with my parents that night. Quite a nice misdirect when you first think Robin had a normal baby, then realize she's had TWO that aren't what she was expecting, as a seemingly human child comes out twisted

and then its TWIN comes out even worse:



5) Don't be Afraid of the Dark

"Sally...we want you!"

An obvious inspiration for 'Inside the Closet', another late bloomer, I hadn't seen until the late 80's.. This one, you know it even if you don't know the title. Everyone who has seen it remembers it and I'm sure any kid who grew up in the 70's/early 80's thought twice about investigating that creaking floorboard after seeing it. Alex and Sally inherit her grandparent's old dark house, in need of serious maintenance, especially the bricked up study and fireplace. Naturally she ignores the pleas of the handyman who worked on the house 20 years prior and breaks both open, unleashing strange creatures who have been in the house for possibly forever..and may have taken her grandfather away when he made the same discovery. The ominous house, thick atmosphere, whispering, taunting voices coming from the dark, and a proper downbeat ending; it's a perfect little Halloween chiller, marred only by the fact that the creatures look like stuntmen with shag carpet stapled to their bodies and are on the receiving end of one too many closeups. (Ghoulies has scarier beasts.) Still, when the things are hiding and discussing what to do with her, it's eerie. The thought of being trapped forever with the imps was far more frightening to me than the overall atmosphere. I haven't seen it since I was 12 or so but I'm sure most of it still holds up.



4) The X files: Irresistible

Now we hit one of the rare X-Files episodes that dealt with a completely HUMAN monster. Foreshadowing the work Chris Carter would explore in Millennium a few years later, the FBI investigates/discovers a series of murders committed by 'death fetishist', Donnie Pfaster(Nick Chinlund). Calm, quiet, nasal-voiced Donnie suggests great anger hidden in a boy trapped in a man's body, and is one of the more unsettling performances I'd seen on the show. Add to it his rituals of washing the hair and nails (and keeping samples to boot) from his victims and the fact that Scully has nightmares(or is it visions?) of him as a shadowy, Satanic being, and you get some prime television spooky.


3) Twin Peaks: The Finale

SPOILERS!! Avoid if you don’t know the show..

While fans of David Lynch’s offbeat soap opera/mystery/existential detective series had waned in season 2 after its key question (Who killed Laura Palmer?) was answered, after a few episodes wading in sub-par narratives the plot kicked into gear again. Straightlaced, eccentric hero Dale Cooper (the FBI agent portrayed by Kyle Maclachlan) faced two nemeses; his insane mentor, retired FBI agent Windom Earle, and The Black Lodge, an alternate dimension (in a manner of speaking) referenced in Indian and Tibetan legend which defied comprehension and was the supernatural source of ‘evil in these woods’ often referenced by townsfolk. Over time in the show the Lodge was not only revealed to be real and accessible, but the actual goal of Agent Earle, formerly assumed to be simply out for revenge on Cooper.

Twin Peaks’ cliffhanger finale, never resolved due to the show’s cancellation, saw Cooper discover the Lodge and enter, trying to stop Earle and save his love, Annie (Heather Graham) What followed was 15 uninterrupted minutes of the strangest television I’ve ever seen; though following a story and answering some questions series viewers had over the previous year, this surrealistic assault of Cooper’s past traumas, riddles, shifts of time and bodily form (characters constantly turn into other characters or disappear) is something that I found initially bizarre and with little context..after time and repeat viewings it has grown into one of the scariest things I’ve seen on television. If you’ve never seen the show it may come off as the brain-burst of a pretentious art-student run amok. If you had really followed the show and/or had a bizarre fear of the uncanny (as I do), it was a flat-out mind-rape. Human characters acting non-human, freezing, behaving as imitations of human form while Cooper was confused, chased, bleeding and trapped in a labyrinth of red curtains.. I couldn’t take it. The screaming, insane dopplegangers (white-eyed shadow-selves of key cast members) didn’t make it any easier. And the show ended with one of the most downbeat, scream-at-the-TV endings I’d ever experienced.



2) Millennium: The Pilot episode

It's still admirable something this dark got onto network TV. The pilot in particular, with its damp Seattle settings and effective capturing of the encroaching fear that rising societal violence and the year 2000 might bring, is the type of tale you need a shower and a cupcake after experiencing. While its tone through three seasons was wildly uneven, Millennium’s initial episode/assault of rain, dire warnings, hallucinations of bleeding strippers writhing in burning rooms, men on fire in the woods(!) etc. was and is this, to me, is one of the few things on the list that still holds up in the fear and dread factor.

The scene that took the cake involved finding one of the Frenchman's (the show’s first serial killer) victims: while alive, he'd been buried in a casket in the woods, with not only his mouth sewn shut, but his eyes AND his wrists/hands stitched up as well so he couldn't even bang on the coffin for help. Ceaselessly screaming a muffled scream when found and never set free from the bonds on camera, this made me quite unsurprised the show caused intense controversy upon its 1996 debut.


1)Twin Peaks: The murder(s)

More spoilers!

Few directors who haven’t really made official horror films can disturb like David Lynch. Whenever he’d step in to direct an episode of the show you could count on the eccentricity/behavior doubling, the pace slowing to a beautiful, non-television-like crawl, and the scary scenes becoming ten times as frightening.

Lynch stepped in during season 2 of the show to direct four episodes. The second season opener and followup, the seventh episode (referenced later in this part), and the finale. While trying not to reveal too much, both involved murders of key characters.. the first one ended the first episode of season 2, when beaten coma victim Ronette Pulaski snapped out of unconsciousness to remember what happened to her and her friend the night they were attacked.

For a sequence with no blood or physical impact really shown, this packed quite a punch and kept me awake in high school. Check it on DVD with proper sound if you really want a beating. Sadly it’s a bit dark on here and missing the slow, still, eerie buildup to this moment.



The second murder occurred six episodes later, as Laura Palmer’s cousin Madeline made plans to return home to Montana after helping console Laura’s grieving parents. The entire episode is thick with dread, with key players intuitively feeling that ‘something is happening.’ And it does. In an absolutely startling sequence, soundtracked by a record endlessly circling on its player after the song ended, Laura’s mother Sarah hallucinates and passes out in her living room, drugged. Her seemingly oblivious husband is nearby putting on a sharp suit.

Later we return to this scene after Cooper, picking up on the psychic disturbance, is flat out told by a Giant apparition (Carel Struycken, returning after visiting Cooper in an earlier episode) that ‘it is happening again’ even though he’s not told how or where.

Back in Sarah’s house, Madeline smells something burning and enters the Palmer’s living room, only to be met with the nastiest murder I’ve ever seen on TV. Absolutely disturbing, it constantly flashes back and forth between the killer’s outward form and his true form, showing what Maddy sees and what’s really happening. The killer beats her, dances with her limp choking body, and kisses her for what goes on for what feels like forever..before taking her and smashing her head into a picture on the wall, cracking the glass and her at the same time. He leans down and inserts a small letter under her fingernail with an exacto knife (the killer’s signature) while glaring at her lifeless body. We cut back to Cooper, still deciphering the signs around him..while all around him begin to break down in anguish they don’t understand. I’ve tried to keep this as vague as I can, but trust me- they don’t even do things this nasty/scary on network television NOW. It’s not hideously bloody but it is violent and disturbing as hell. Twin Peaks’ most nervewracking moment, and the buildup to the murder remains the scariest thing, personally, I have witnessed on television. It still scares me today to the degree it did in 1990. Seek the show out on high quality dvd and then write me to tell me you agree or I’m insane..just check it out. We’re so used to today binging on TV shows on DVD, you’ll get to it quickly.


So in conclusion: surrealism, smiles and little rubber puppets did the most damage to me growing up.

:-D

Your turn: what freaked you silly on TV, as a child or recently?


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    Comments

    Good list but its criminal that 'Hush' from BtVS isn't on the list. Its pure genius and still scares me.

    I've actually never seen 'Hush' except for a brief clip! I need to catch up on Buffy, I bet the list would shift a bit once I did.

    How about the "Blink" episode of Doctor Who?

    you know, that episode nearly made the list!! Definitely scary but the others were more traumatizing. I may need to revise this. :)

    Barnick, the other kid in Salem's Lot is his brother, who's already blamed himself for the kid's disappearance. Also, the kid at the window woke him up, and he's probably not sure he's dreaming. So there's plenty of reason for him not to be remotely concerned about his brother floating in his window. A great movie, but I think the showdown between Barlow and the priest is even scarier than the kid in the window.

    Ah! I guess it HAS been a while since I've seen it.

    An unforgettable moment that made me shut my eyes impulsively the moment I saw it was "The Doll" in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (shame that Serling didn't make this Top 10 list at all) - in "The Doll" a little girl is heard crying in her room at night, and when her father goes to check on her, the POV slowly pans across the room, from the crying girl in bed, to one of her dolls which has been ripped apart on the floor, to a hideous and fiendishly grinning doll sitting on the girls dresser, the perpetrator of the vandalism on it's rival for the girl's attention. Still chilling after all this time!

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